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Another Arrow Shed Observatory

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#1 silverking

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Posted 30 November 2013 - 10:38 PM

I took inspiration from previous posters here on CN who had constructed some fine looking observatories from Arrow metal sheds.

In this case (and rather late in the season for the Pacific Northwest), I happened to be at Home Depot and noticed a few 8X10 Arrow metal sheds on a clear-out for just a couple of hundred bucks.
On a whim, and with no prior planning to do so, I picked one up with the intention of turning it into an observatory similar to the ones I’d seen here on CN.

Now, over the years I’ve made about 500 different excuses to myself why I shouldn’t build an observatory in my back yard. Those excuses have ranged from the (true) fact that there’s too many trees blocking my Eastern and South Eastern view, that it rains too much here in the Pacific Northwest, that it would take up too much space in my yard (even though I don’t use the space for anything!), and a bunch of other excuses that, frankly, have prevented me from building an observatory since I moved into this house 12 years ago.

No longer. I had purchased the Arrow shed and was on my way.

Some parameters I’d established for myself ahead of time were:

1) I’d be working by myself, and couldn’t count on having a second pair of hands available.

2) I wanted the observatory to be practical, but also was painfully aware that I was definitely NOT an experienced carpenter.

3) I decided up front that I wasn’t going to play around endlessly with trying to waterproof the roll-off roof, so decided up front to put a secondary cover on it.

4) I also decided I wasn’t into concrete at all, and would build the platform for the shed from wood, and the pier from 4 pressure treated 4X4’s.

5) I realized that, because of how late in the fall it is, once I started I’d pretty much have to finish quickly if I wanted it to a “lock-up” stage before endless days and months of rain.

I'm writing this after the building is to “lock-up”, but before the telescope is mounted on the pier. There are many elements still to complete, and here in the Pacific Northwest, the endless rain of winter has definitely descended upon us. The bonus is that with my Mr. Heater in the observatory, I can continue to work inside in a warm and dry space.

I sunk the 8X8 pier in 7 bags of Post Haste concrete, let it set for a few days, and then began building a simple deck around the pier, on which would sit the Arrow shed.

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#2 silverking

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Posted 30 November 2013 - 10:39 PM

More pier, Arrow shed walls, sitting on deck with no roof.

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#3 silverking

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Posted 30 November 2013 - 10:43 PM

You'll notice that I "stick built" two 2X4 frames, one on top of the other, which I tagged temporarily together (in square) with a few screws.
I then built the roof framing on top of the pair of frames, but secured into the top on only.
The intent is to build the roof to completion, remove the tagging screws, and then lift and offset the roof slightly in order to attach the casters.

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#4 silverking

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Posted 30 November 2013 - 10:47 PM

The actual site in my back yard.

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#5 silverking

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Posted 30 November 2013 - 10:48 PM

a bit closer.

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#6 silverking

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Posted 30 November 2013 - 10:51 PM

Although the roof was unwieldy, it wasn't too heavy. Once I took the tagging screws out, it wasn't too difficult to offset the roof and attach the casters. I then (this was the unwieldily part) lifted the roof (with casters attached) back into place.

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#7 silverking

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Posted 30 November 2013 - 10:57 PM

I then built the roll-off assembly out of cedar 4X4's, with each post mounted on an adjustable jack for future trimming for level. Although the roll off assembly is attached to the building, it can be completely detached for a "from scratch" re-leveling if it should ever be required.

You'll note too that, as per my earlier post regarding an almost OCD concern with water ingress into the observatory, I also put a heavy tarp on the roof. It's been trimmed to fit, and attached on three sides.
I've built a few of these metal sheds before, and know up front that getting the standard roof watertight with sealants is almost impossible.

I've left the tarp loose at the back of the observatory, as this is the part that has to roll clear when the roof moves. The advantage is that the tarp (held in place with 4 bungee straps) completely waterproofs the most difficult area of any roll off roof observatory, the "back" opposite the roll-off rails. Some folks use hinged boards to execute a watertight seal, but I've chosen to bring the tarp right down over the entire opening created by the casters having raised the roof.
It poured today, and not a drop in the observatory.

However the major downside is that I've got to futz with the tarp when rolling the roof back into the closed position. This kind of ruins the dream of just rolling the roof closed and going to bed, but it really adds only 2 or 3 minutes to the process, and as I said..........gotta' be watertight or I worry about it endlessly.

A small price to pay in the Pacific Northwest, where we can get rain for weeks on end.

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#8 silverking

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Posted 30 November 2013 - 10:59 PM

Different angle.

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#9 silverking

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Posted 30 November 2013 - 11:00 PM

Another.

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#10 silverking

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Posted 30 November 2013 - 11:03 PM

I noted earlier that one of my never ending excuses as to why I shouldn't build an observatory was the tall trees around some compass points of my property.
My vista to the South isn't terribly bad though.

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#11 silverking

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Posted 30 November 2013 - 11:04 PM

West and North are OK too.

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#12 silverking

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Posted 30 November 2013 - 11:08 PM

I've decided I'm not going to go overboard with the interior finishing. I want it to be functional, but I'm not trying to make it look like the inside of my house.

Here's my desk, and the "service wall".
These Arrow sheds obviously can't have things screwed to their walls, so things like 12V power supply, dimmers, lights, etc will get attached to this chunk of plywood that's attached to the deck at the bottom, and the lower 2X4 roof frame at the top.

I hate messy cables, so note that this is just the very early stages of the interior construction. All cables and other "bits" will be tidied up completely prior to use.

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#13 silverking

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Posted 30 November 2013 - 11:13 PM

I headed out to my local (10 miles away) MetalMart today to pick up the plates to go on top of the pier - to which will attach my EQ-6 mount. Upon pulling up in the parking lot, I got quite excited as there were hardly any cars there. Normally it's an hour wait, and I myself would have to stand around while they ran the metal bandsaw through two 8" cuts for me.

This entire weekend was planned around getting the plates in place on the pier, and attaching the mount.

The reason there were no cars is because of the paper signs taped to all the windows and doors -----"CLOSED FOR INVENTORY-----.

Great.

So here are a couple of shots that I took when the sun came out briefly a day or so ago.

More later, when I get some more parts and pieces to keep things moving forward.

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#14 silverking

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Posted 30 November 2013 - 11:14 PM

Last pic for today.

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#15 dandabson

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Posted 30 November 2013 - 11:14 PM

Cool project, I am planning something similar next spring.

#16 mikey cee

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Posted 30 November 2013 - 11:26 PM

Hi yo Silver....did your shed kit come with any metal floor "joists"? My Arrow garden shed did and because of snow loads I used them in the roof to narrow up those spaces betrween the three metal roof "beams". Also just curious but how can a person do this by themselves? I had to have my wife on the inside hold nuts in place for my screwed in bolts etc. :grin: Mike

#17 Galaxyhunter

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Posted 30 November 2013 - 11:39 PM

Now, over the years I’ve made about 500 different excuses to myself why I shouldn’t build an observatory in my back yard. Those excuses have ranged from the (true) fact that there’s too many trees blocking my Eastern and South Eastern view, that it rains too much here in the Pacific Northwest, that it would take up too much space in my yard (even though I don’t use the space for anything!), and a bunch of other excuses that, frankly, have prevented me from building an observatory since I moved into this house 12 years ago.



All the MORE reason to build an Observatory. You can be ready in a moments notice. Setup time is gone. :jump:

Nice job on your Observatory.

#18 Galaxyhunter

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Posted 30 November 2013 - 11:40 PM

Double Post

#19 silverking

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Posted 30 November 2013 - 11:40 PM

Hi Mikey, Yes, it came with the complete floor kit, but I didn't install it as it was built on the deck.

One advantage to endless rain in the PNW, is that we can go for years in a row with no snow. Snows not impossible, and we do get some now and then, but it's always gone again in a few days.

BUT, now that you've told me what you used yours for, I'm going to have a look tomorrow to see if I can somehow use them to assist me in my efforts to build a secondary frame to support the foam board used to insulate the inside of the roof!
That's some good thinkin' taking them up off the floor to use to reinforce the roof.
To date I was thinking mine were just going to wind up going out to the dump.
It gives me something to do tomorrow in place of the metal pier plates that I couldn't pick up.

You really want to know how I got those bolts in??

.......I built as much of the shed as I could in a slightly revised order from he instructions so I could access as many fasteners as possible from both sides, and for those fasteners that you had your wife assist with (and I DO know the ones you mean!), I put the machine screw in the hole, and gaffer-taped the head to the metal shed, I then went into the shed and gingerly twisted the nut onto the protruding machine screw. Very carefully of course, because if I pushed even slightly - the tape doesn't hold and the machine screw pops out into the grass never to be found again!
Multiplied by the 40 or 50 machine screws used in building one of these sheds, I will admit it was a somewhat "un-fun" part of the build.

Once I got a bit of bite on the fastener, I again very carefully tightened it right up.
Honestly, it probably wouldn't hurt to get my daughter out with me, she on the inside and me on the outside for a final torquing.......but she's 15 and when asked if she wants to help me with the observatory.........well :) (thus the initial plan to ensure I could actually complete it solo).

I'd not want to re-do the actual Arrow shed construction anytime soon (wood is much easier), and as with all Arrow metal sheds......blood was shed during that part of construction!

#20 silverking

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Posted 30 November 2013 - 11:51 PM

You know how excuses go Carl, in this case the abundant rain manifested my excuse that I wouldn't get to open the roof often enough to warrant the cost and effort to build an observatory.

But of course, you're absolutely right!

#21 scopefreak

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Posted 01 December 2013 - 06:34 AM

Look at it this way, once you get all the gear installed in the OBS, it makes for a nice place to go and just look AT your telescope.

I find myself doing that quite often on those long cold winter cloudy days and nights.

Really like the construction of you OBS. I'm sure you will enjoy it.

#22 hm insulators

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Posted 04 December 2013 - 12:07 PM

Too bad you can't load your observatory onto a truck and drive it down to Arizona! The clouds and rain will follow you and we could sure use it, seeing as how we're in a major drought.

#23 silverking

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Posted 04 December 2013 - 01:39 PM

I spend an inordinate amount of time on Google Maps looking around Southern Arizona and dreaming of having some wide-open property down that way.

I know the grass is always greener.

It's intriguing how the dark-sky, sparsely populated corners of Southern Arizona are also the very nicely priced areas when looking at un-serviced 10 to 20 acre parcels.

I frequently look around to the far South and West of Gila Bend. Not really too far from city life, yet dark blue, grey or black zones.

......and a guy does need a winter get away spot :)

(meanwhile, I'll be content to enjoy my current location and new observatory!).

#24 silverking

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Posted 04 December 2013 - 10:46 PM

For anybody that might be interested, here's an FYI as to what it might cost to do something similar with an Arrow shed, these are some of the numbers I ran up:

2 X 4’s and 4 X 4’s and plywood as required - $354.83
Redi-rod, nuts and washers for mount cage - $111.37
Assorted sealants - $70.00
Stain and side trim boards, side roller weather boards - $94.94
Assorted wiping strips and other weather stripping - $114.38
12V power supply and wiring/distribution to pier - $120.57
Red LED rope light for interior - $27.99
Assorted screws for assembly - $47.99
Dimmer and LED task lighting - $29.58
Mr. Heater propane heater - $80.00
Heavy tarp for roof cover - $40.00
Interlocking 1/2” rubber floor tiles - 55.95

And the 8 X 10 Arrow shed was $240.00 on an end-of-season super sale price.

So I’m into it to date for:
TOTAL - $1387.60

There's probably another $150.00 or so in miscellaneous things, like the Post Haste cement for the pier, and other items I've lost the receipts for.

That's got it to lock-up with a pier, electricity, weather-proofed, and with a fully functional rolling roof.
There’s probably a couple hundred more bucks to completion.

Note that I have long owned all the actual telescope hardware and software, mount, scope, guiding scope and guide ccd, bunch of eyepieces dew control ,remote focuser, etc……as well as a couple of laptops and an iPad I’m planning on using out in the observatory………so none of those kinds of costs are going to be added to the project.

If the metal shed observatory happens to match your idea of what your observatory might look like, it’s still far and away the least expensive method of getting an actual fully enclosed observatory building into your back yard.

Although (as noted in an earlier post) I’m absolutely not a carpenter, I’d rate the difficulty of constructing a metal shed with a roll off roof about 7 out of 10. You have to truly understand how to maintain square throughout a building project.
Adding the modifications for the roll off roof makes maintaining square even more important.
These Arrow sheds are hard enough to make all the screw holes line up, and losing square at any point in your project will result in either the Arrow shed itself not assembling properly, and/or the roll off roof assembly not running true.

Although the Arrow instructions don’t offer any solution if you should get out of square, the obvious solution would be that you would have to disassemble what you had built so far, and start from scratch…..this would be a somewhat painful thing to have to do.

Tools I had and used were a mitre saw, a table saw, a 3/8” corded drill, a Black and Decker Workmate (the Workmate being the best investment you can make for home projects) and assorted hand tools of the normal variety.

I started this all in mid-October, and did the majority of the work in three very long weekends, working a full 8 hours on each Saturday and Sunday. Add to that a few 4 to 6 hour days after those three grunt weekends, and you get roughly 55 hours or so put into getting the observatory as far as is shown in the previous pictures.

#25 ZeroID

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Posted 05 December 2013 - 08:38 PM

Excellent work, I have a 'tin shed' solution for my Ob as well and have will try your roof idea with the tarp to solve my small leakage problems.






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